It would be so easy to sit back and say that the hard work has been accomplished and we can simply let the new Democratic majority do their job. The problem with that position is that the last time we simply left things up to the Democratic majority and disengaged from the process, they lost the keys to the castle. Simply put, electing them is the easy part; helping them govern will take some effort.
Now, obviously, this message isn’t for everyone. Those who believe the “job” is simply about winning elections might as well stop reading now. The people I am talking to are those who believe we elect folks to represent a set of values and positions that will make our country better for the majority of its citizens. Over the past twelve years that the other side has controlled the congress, many Democrats have stopped fighting hard for the average working American, using the excuse, “I’m in the minority. I am doing the best I can under that circumstance.” Well they don’t have that excuse to wave around any longer.
On the issue of trade, for example, Democrats (and the majority of Americans) believe that trade is an important part of international diplomacy and integral to the economy. However, trade deals that do not come with safeguards for American workers or environmental protections or deals that reward corporations that off shore production to evade taxes do not represent the values of working Americans or a Progressive Democratic Party. Democrats since 1994 have simply stopped fighting the shift to so-called Free Trade by using the excuse of being in the minority. Now it would be nice to think that we could simply rely on the fact that Democrats are in the majority to start turning that trend around. Don’t be too quick to buy that. From David Sirota’s Blog:
"Baucus Bows to Bush “Free” Trade Agenda On First Day of New Congress?
On the first day of the new Congress after Democrats took the majority thanks to many of its winning candidates running explicitly against "free" trade, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for the reauthorization of legislation to allow President Bush to negotiate trade deals with no labor, human rights or environmental standards. Baucus says he supports this “fast track” authority being “improved as it is renewed, with better trade enforcement capability and better environmental and labor provisions.” But he doesn’t explain how giving Bush the authority to negotiate trade deals with no input from Congress would somehow obligate Bush to include labor/human rights/environmental provisions in those trade deals. If someone knows of an “improved” fast track proposal that somehow obligates Bush to adhere to a fair trade agenda while cutting out Congress from holding his feet to the fire, please explain in the comments section. Otherwise, we should assume this is a smokescreen much like the highly-touted NAFTA side agreements that were shown to be a sham before the ink on that deal dried.” As of this writing I have still not seen any explanation as to what requires Bush to change his stripes.
On the issue of Iraq, it was reassuring to read that Reid and Pelosi have sent a letter to Bush rejecting the ridicules notion of a “troop surge” to that country. However, there will soon be a request for some $100 BILLION to continue funding who knows what in Iraq. I say, “who knows what” because, for the entire time Bush and the republican congress have had us occupying that country, there has been no meaningful oversight by anyone inside the government. Given that the American people have expressed their views in the last election about the direction they want to see in Iraq, $100 BILLION seems pretty high for a re-deployment. In other words, while it is never the right thing to fail to provide for the safety and welfare of our troops, the new Democratic majority has every obligation to scrutinize every funding request to ensure that monies are not being set aside for troop build-ups or “permanent military infrastructure” of any kind. It’s time to pull in the purse strings in a way that leads to bringing our troops home sooner rather than later.
In the areas of energy and the environment and civil liberties and so many others, the new Democratic majority will have the opportunity to put this country back on the right track. I am concerned however that, due to the possibility of a veto or, worse, the threat of a large special interest to withhold re-election funding, some members of this new majority may falter. Therefore we must remain vigilant and active in “helping” our elected representatives remain in touch with their constituents. Keep that contact information on the bulletin board by the phone.
While we have gained a foothold, there is still a mountain to climb.
Chad (The Left) Shue